Chalmers and Biopetrolia researchers successfully engineered yeast cells for production of Docosanol with increased efficiency and selectivity, as reported by the paper in Nature Communications. Docosanol is a very long chain fatty alcohol mostly used as an emollient, emulsifier, and thickener in cosmetics. It is also commercialized as an FDA-approved antiviral agent for treatment of herpes simplex virus symptoms.
For producing docosanol, yeast cells were first engineered to produce very long chain fatty acids, which are present in only very low levels in the native cells. Subsequent engineering led to the conversion of said fatty acids into their fatty alcohol form in a very specific way free of contaminants from similar molecules.